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Park Ridge, Ill., Police to Purchase License Plate Cameras

A set of eight license plate cameras will give police additional help locating wanted vehicles, officials say. Surrounding cities have also implemented the technology, which can share intelligence between departments.

Flock Safety license plate reader
Flock Safety
(TNS) — Park Ridge aldermen gave the first approval to a $23,000 purchase of license plate readers known as Flock cameras at a Feb. 21 Committee of the Whole meeting.

The city budgeted for the cameras, which alert police when they pick up the license plate of a wanted vehicle, in its most recent spending plan. Chief of Police Frank Kaminski said the cameras could work as a deterrent to car thefts and help officers track possible criminal activity around the city.

“The officers are wearing cameras, we’ve got cameras in the squad cars, we’ve got cameras all over this building, cameras… do help in solving crime,” he said.

According to a memo from Kaminski to council members, four nearby suburbs are also equipping themselves with Flock cameras: Mount Prospect, Prospect Heights, Lincolnwood and Des Plaines.

The cameras are also able to communicate across the municipalities where they’re placed, Kaminski said.

“If a wanted car comes out across a camera then an alert goes out to us,” he said at the Committee of the Whole meeting. “Any alert from anywhere that is a Flock community, we can add it as a hot car.”

In the memo, Kaminski states that more than 186 law enforcement agencies throughout Illinois are currently using the camera systems, including nearby Niles, Morton Grove and Skokie.

“Cameras are being used throughout the whole area, in fact the whole state, as a way to help deal with some of the crime issues that are out there,” he said.

Park Ridge is purchasing eight cameras, though some neighboring cities and villages maintain many more than that.

“I’d say take the first year and see how eight do,” Kaminski said. “We will pick those locations and put them in those locations and see how they do before saying we want 20, 30 more.”

Aldermen approved the purchase in a unanimous vote.

“This is a topic that I’m sadly behind, just given what we’ve seen in crime,” 5th Ward Ald. Charlie Melidosian said.

Later on in the meeting, Melidosian inquired about a potential incentive program for residents who install Ring doorbells or other surveillance devices on their property.

“Walking around town, I see more and more residential security cameras and you’ve referenced how they’ve helped fight crime and I’d argue that they may be a deterrent from many residences,” he said.

He asked if Park Ridge would consider a partnership with a company like Flock or Ring where residents could purchase the devices at a discount and agree to share the footage with law enforcement.

“The more we do as a community, the more perhaps these bad actors will navigate to other communities,” Melidosian said.

Kaminski said police had thought about such a program but that doing so could raise concerns about other parties possessing their data.

“People and cameras: there’s always two sides,” he said. “Some people want ‘em. Some people don’t want ‘em. Some people feel they’re deterrents. Some people feel they’re not.”

Kaminski added that most residents who do have surveillance devices will assist police if officers request their footage.

1st Ward Ald. John Moran suggested “some sort of a $50 rebate or something along those lines” for people who have purchased a surveillance system in a particular timeframe or who do so in the future.

Finance director Chris Lipman said staff could look into such a program for the coming year’s budget process, although Mayor Marty Maloney noted that previous City Councils have opposed using public funds for private property improvements.

After listening to the discussion, Melidosian said he could see why a rebate program or data-sharing agreement with residents might not be advisable, but said he’d support the city pushing more information about home security cameras as a way to improve public safety.

“There is benefit to the city facilitating this, much in the same way we facilitate education on rain barrels or other flood mitigation, but instead of flood mitigation, it’s public safety,” he said.

Aldermen will revisit the Flock camera purchase again at a future City Council meeting.

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